Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. — Genesis 12:10
The Torah portion for this week, Lech Lecha, which means “go to yourself.” It is from Genesis 12:1–17:27, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:27–41:16.
This Torah reading begins with all sorts of promises to Abraham if he took up the challenge to journey to this new land. God would bless him and make him into a great nation. He would be the recipient of every imaginable blessing.
Abraham listened to God’s promises and made the difficult move to an unknown land. And then what happened? He wasn’t there very long and “there was a famine in the land . . .” Abraham had no choice but to move to Egypt.
Huh? What happened to the blessings that God had promised? Abraham kept his part of the bargain. Why didn’t God keep His?
This story comes to mind: There once was a farmer who owned a horse. One day the horse ran away. All the people in the town came to console the farmer. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said, “maybe it’s a bad thing and maybe it’s not.”
A few days later, the horse returned to the farm accompanied by 20 other horses. (Apparently the horse had made some friends!) All the townspeople came to congratulate the farmer: “Now you have a stable full of horses!” “Oh, I don’t know,” said the farmer, “maybe it’s a good thing and maybe it's not.”
A few days later, the farmer’s son was out riding one of the new horses. The horse got wild and threw him off, breaking the son’s leg. All of the people in town came to console the farmer because of the accident. Again he said, “Oh, I don't know, maybe it’s a bad thing and maybe it’s not.”
A few days later, the government declared war and instituted a draft of all able-bodied young men. They came to the town and carted off hundreds of young men, except for the farmer's son who had a broken leg. “Now I know,” said the farmer, “It was a good thing my horse ran away!”
Abraham knew that he didn’t know. He didn’t know God’s plan. He didn’t know what was really good for him or what was really bad. All he knew was that God had made a promise and that somehow it would be fulfilled. Ultimately, Abraham and Sarah come out of Egypt, completely unharmed, and now, very wealthy.
Friends, when life takes us on all sorts of strange twists and turns, let us remember that it’s not we who are driving the car. The Lord Almighty is guiding us, and He knows exactly where we need to be. Sometimes it seems that things aren’t going the way that they should be, but we must have faith that it’s all part of God’s plan. Our job is to keep on trucking, and trust God to take care of the blessings.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President